Well done, bawa! Rustom Baug smashes a tonne
Byculla’s 32-building Parsi housing enclave set to celebrate 100th birthday with year-long events planned by grateful residents
Buildings are being lit up at Rustom Baug. Pics/Atul Kamble
The landmark Rustom Baug Parsi Colony in Byculla East marks a historic 100 this year. Celebrations begin for the residential enclave’s smashing century with a Thanksgiving Jashan (prayer) on the evening of Saturday, January 14, followed by a Khushali-no-Melavdo, which, roughly translated, means a get together.
Article by Hemal Ashar | Mid-Day
An excerpt from the invite to the first of year-long events reads: ‘We are so excited and proud to inform you that 100 years ago, the gates of Rustom Baug opened up for the Zoroastrian community, thanks to the unconditional benevolence of Bai Jerbai Wadia. This legacy was increasingly maintained by the Wadia family’. In a corner of this invite are three lines that are germane to the spirit of the celebrations: ‘Gratitude for our past; Celebrating our present; Enriching our future’.
Gratitude is key for Rustom Baug Welfare Association (RBWA) President Burzis Taraporevala who has lived in the colony for 64 years. “We are blessed. I want youngsters to know how fortunate they are. We can never forget Jerbai Wadia and the Wadia family philanthropy,” he said.
For Taraporevala, the colony’s massive ground, library, gymnasium and excellent wooden badminton court are standouts. Equally important is the safety this gated space gives. “At times, I have forgotten to lock my car, and it has been there, just the same the next morning,” he explained.
Hutoxi Doodhwala, resident and member of the centenary celebrations committee, under the RBWA, pointed to several structures from the 32 buildings of four floors each in the colony. “Residents have started putting up lights on their individual buildings to mark the date. Real happiness is lighting up hearts within,” she said.
Doodhwala explained the Baug is self-contained with “everything one would need, from tuition teachers, to licensed vendors, a clubhouse, community hall within”. Doodhwala said the colony came together as a family when it mattered most. “In COVID times,” she explained, “a bell was rung through the colony at 6 pm. People came out on their balconies or to their windows and prayed for those suffering and battling losses. Some played the prayers on speakers via Bluetooth.” She added, “Even people who can afford upscale housing elsewhere in the city, like flats in modern towers, do not wish to move out.”
Not just cement there is soul too, is the sentiment that resonates through Rustom Baug. Resident Jehangir Mistry said, “Nearly a century ago, my grandfather was walking through this neighbourhood. He saw some construction going on and simply walked into a little office near the site and booked a flat.”
Mistry explained, “Earlier, we had three-storey buildings with flat roofs. Then through the years, a fourth floor was added with red-tiled roofs.” He also expressed gratitude toward the Wadia family. “These Baugs have been built with the philanthropic tradition that ran so deeply in the Parsi community earlier,” he said.
A place where the shrill trill of the stressful mobile is replaced by the sweet sound of bird song. “This space is quiet and my wife and I, like many others, enjoy our tea in the back kitchen balcony in the mornings,” explained Mistry.
He added that many youngsters have volunteered to help in celebrations and posters have already gone up in several colony buildings announcing 100 years. “This is like the ‘trailer’ to the main show or movie,” laughed Mistry, centenary celebrations committee member.
Both Doodhwala and Mistry said that the Saturday programme would begin with organizers felicitating residents over 90. “We have a 100-year-old resident and several Rustom Baug-ites who are over 90. They will be honoured with a toran (garland) and a shawl,” said Mistry.
‘It takes a village to raise a child’ goes the proverb and this is true for Roxane Khodaiji, who said, “I came to this colony as a nine-year-old, with my seven-year-old sister and my mum, a young widow. We got so much support, I had so many mums and dads too, in the colony.”
Khodaiji added, “During COVID, many youngsters and I helped these ‘aunties and uncles’ who had looked after me when I was a child. We took parcels to their homes as these buildings do not have lifts and so mobility is challenging for the old and infirm. This was and is the best place to live.”
“There is a tree by the Baug’s pavilion,” said a resident of 28 years, Khushnuma Ferzandi, “which has stood for 100 years. Talk to it and it will tell you secrets, of the games children played under it, how it provided shelter…”
Ferzandi added, “I moved out of the Baug when I was 9, went abroad, and returned to it after I got married. It was extremely important that my children have a place to play, connect with other children and just be kids! Here, we have a haven, a community that keeps you anchored in a city that is so full of hustle-bustle where one can get lost easily. Rustom Baug is family with its bonds and differences too, but that only adds to the colour of living here.”